Thursday, October 11, 2012

Paranormal Activity 3

Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman.
2011. Rated R, 84 minutes.
Chris Smith
Lauren Bittner
Chloe Csengery
Jessica Tyler Brown
Hallie Foote
Dustin Ingram
Johanna Braddy
Brian Boland
Sprague Grayden

As we’ve been warned, the events of Paranormal Activity and its sequel are only part of a lifetime dealing with things that go bump in the night. So it’s no surprise that the third installment in this haunted house franchise is a prequel. We journey back to 1988, in the midst of the troubled childhoods of Katie (Csengery) and Kristi (Brown). The two sisters share a room upstairs in a pretty open house; their room doesn’t have a full wall and looks out over the lower level of the house. As little girls are wont to do, Kristi has an imaginary friend named Toby. Well, at least everyone else in the house thinks he’s imaginary. After about 10 minutes of movie time, Katie and mom Julie (Bittner) still think so, but stepdad Dennis (Smith) isn’t so sure. See, like apparently every man that has ever come into contact with the girls, he’s set up cameras all over the house. Now, when the things in the night go bumping, he can watch it on video the next day.

Like with the first two movies in the series, the aim is to draw you in, piling up little scares along the way until you’re wholly unsettled then bombard you with a furious and creepy finish. The technique is actually solid and the climax is indeed fun in a twisted way. I suspect it may be enough for people to consider it a really good horror flick. After all, the franchise is known for and built upon its finales. They are what keeps us coming back for the next Paranormal Activity.

Unfortunately, each installment works best if you haven’t seen either of the others. Without automatically recalling the two films just like it, the one you’re watching can be more effective on you. This is because if you’re familiar with the franchise then the setup and execution are both overly familiar to you. During the day, people argue about whether or not they have ghosts as house guests. After everyone goes to bed, there are all sorts of strange noises, inanimate objects moving by themselves and odd behavior by one of the characters who, of course, is unaware of what they’re doing. It is an effective formula seen once, less so on the second go-round and a little less than that this time around. It’s simply a victim of the law of diminishing returns. This is why horror franchise often give up trying to scare us and become parodies of themselves. Being repeatedly manipulated in the same exact manner cannot continue to be scary. To its credit, Paranormal Activity 3 refuses to go down that road. However admirable sticking to its haunted guns might be, it fails to up the fright factor.

MY SCORE: 5/10

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